All This and Bob Wire Cooks, Too?

By BOB WIRE

Barb’s working late. Kids are starving. They want nuggets and tots.

No frickin’ way.

I can do better, and I want them to know it. Besides, we’re all out of Totino’s Pizza (which is basically a big round Triscuit topped with ketchup and grated rubber). And damn it, this enlightened modern man can cook. I’ve got a modest repertoire of meals that provide a pretty acceptable nutrition-to-diarrhea ratio, and I’ve even brought some of my cooking to potlucks and barbecues. Once.

But I haven’t always been the epicurean everyman that I am today.

I started out my cooking career humbly, same as most guys: Hunched over the sink, using a spoon to eat an entire pan of ramen noodles, mac ‘n cheese, or microwaved potatoes. It all requires margarine. (Young Dude Tip: Always buy the big yellow tub of Gold-N-Soft. It’s a delicious, vaguely butterish substance that will not only provide all your dietary fat needs, but can be used to silence creaky door hinges and lube squeaky fishing reels. Plus, hey, free tupperware.)

But I got pretty good at cooking that starchy board of fare. To this day, I can eyeball exactly two cups of water into a saucepan, within two or three drops.

I believe I may have mentioned my spaghetti sauce, of which I am so proud. As a young single man, I started with a can of store-brand tomato sauce, mixed with a packet of that red salt they call “spaghetti seasoning.” Then one night I got adventurous and stirred in a can of sliced mushrooms (actually pieces and stems). From there it evolved over the years to the fully tricked-out, spankalicious concoction that made Barb fall in love with me (I know, I know—you probably assumed it was my smoldering good looks and oily charm).

The Sauce is the crown jewel of my collection of recipes. I don’t dumb it down for the kids, but they have finally grown into it. That’s right. I weaned ‘em off the Spaghetti-O’s and now they enjoy big steaming plates of Dad’s Sauce on a weekly basis.

Dinner's not ready until the smoke alarm goes off.

“Dad, why’s the smoke alarm going off?”
“Dinner’sready!”

But even Dad’s Sauce can’t satisfy these kids every time. My pride usually won’t allow me to take the easy road and throw together something that will be crisp golden brown in 15-17 minutes. I don’t mind making them the unsophisticated foods that they like, but man, I need to get some juice out of the transaction too. So the Beefaroni and canned green beans will have to wait until next time.

Like many men of my post-boomer, pre-X generation, I start a meal plan with the meat. I first choose a hunk of meat to anchor the meal, much like a large department store anchors a mall. Then I can fill in around it with the Foot Lockers and Aeropostales of veggies, starch, and a piece of bread or something to keep the kids’ hands out of their plates.

So I look through the freezer (because who keeps meat in the cupboard?). There’s a package of tilapia (they won’t eat it, and I can’t pronounce it right). Catfish filets? Nah—saving those for Halloween (“El Gato Negro!”). Fish sticks. Cheap frozen scallops. What the hell is this, Gilligan’s Island?

Check the fridge. First stop, the lunchmeat-and-cheese drawer. Hot dogs. Bingo. They like hot dogs. I like hot dogs. Technically, they are meat. Most importantly, we have buns. And sauerkraut. All right. Houston, we have liftoff.

So I cook the hot dogs by applying heat to them (boil in two cups of water), rather than just rearranging their molecules in the microwave. Besides, the microwave is tied up cooking the spuds. I’ve also turned up a container of Thai noodles from yesterday’s lunch, and some white rice.

So there’s a nice, healthy meal for two growing kids. Hot dogs, and a side of rice-stuffed potatoes, served on a bed of noodles. And don’t tell me that potatoes aren’t a vegetable. Here’s how I know: Vegetables grow in dirt. Potatoes grow in dirt. Ergo, potatoes are a vegetable. And not too bad slathered in Gold-N-Soft.

When I was a kid, the rule was only one starch allowed per meal. Having potatoes? Well, you can’t have rice too, you madman! And there’s a breakfast version of this fascist rule, that says if you have pancakes, you can’t have toast. You know what? I’m a grown man! If I want to have a deep fried moon pie sandwiched between two sausage patties and smothered in Mrs. Renfro’s for dinner, I can have it! It’s one of the rewards of surviving childhood.

I might prepare the evening meal more often than she does, but Barb remains the chief cook in this family, even if I make dinner five days in a row.

She makes much healthier and more reasonable decisions, and has the insanely magical ability to pull a complete meal out of a cupboard containing a half-sleeve of saltines, a tin of potted meat, and some Jet-Dry. It’s all very mysterious to me. I mean, if I don’t have a big ol’ slab of JC Penney to fry or roast, I have only one option.

Preheat the oven to 450°.

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   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Bob Wire is medicated and ready to rock.

Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.